Rarely do we see things improve morally in the world around us. But the problem is fairly simple. Watch the 24/7 political discourse in our country for any length of time and the root beneath so many of America’s downfalls becomes easy to see: we’re all hypocrites.
As late night TV host Stephen Colbert has recently taken criticism from conservatives for crude comments about President Trump, liberals countered by saying that Republicans were just fine with it any time crude comments were made about President Obama. Which is generally true. But, on the flip side of that, they were furious when the comments about Obama were made. The roles reversed and each criticized the other for doing exactly what they would do in that situation.
Another example is the #notmypresident movement. Liberals hammered conservatives for saying that President Obama wasn’t their president over his two terms in office, claiming that he absolutely was and it was un-American to oppose him in such a way. What happened on President Trump’s first day in office? Those same liberals claimed that Trump isn’t their president. Which, you guessed it, led to conservatives telling them that they were being un-American. The cycle never ends.
Both sides will argue that their rivals’ hypocrisy is greater than their own, but that’s irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, no progress is made because both sides stubbornly refuse to own up to their own flaws. Things won’t get better until everyone starts admitting that the wrong they see in others is just as wrong when they themselves do it.
Of course, this isn’t strictly a political issue, and politics isn’t the thrust of the article. Politics just serve as a perfect example of how we act when our pride gets in the way. This is one of the critical errors we make as humans, and especially as Christians; when that pride gets in the way, we refuse to say we’re wrong. The things we absolutely hate and condemn in other people somehow become excusable when we do them. For others it was clearly a blatant attempt to do the wrong thing. For us it was merely a mistake. Pride-filled hypocrisy is one of our greatest impediments to growth.
So what’s the cure? The Old Testament provides the answer.
In 2 Samuel 12, David had already committed his sins of committing adultery with Bathsheba, trying to deceive Uriah, then having Uriah killed in battle to cover it all up. Nathan the prophet was sent by God to confront David by using a parable of a wealthy man who stole his neighbor’s only sheep, which incensed David. David demanded that justice be brought against this man, at which point Nathan turned the tables – “You are the man!”
David’s response is one of the ways in which his reputation as a wonderfully faithful child of God was built. He didn’t blame Bathsheba for tempting him. He didn’t deny his actions or try to deflect the criticism. He didn’t get defensive with Nathan. He said one phrase that showed us exactly where his heart stood: “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13). His sin was bad enough, but acting like a hypocrite by refusing to confront it head on would have made it so much worse. Correction and growth can only happen when we’re humble enough to listen to rebuke and are honest enough with ourselves to change. For David, that led to the highly emotional Psalm 51, still the gold standard for what God wants in our repentance.
The cure for our hypocrisy is having the heart that David did. He stood against his own sin just as strongly as he did against the sin of a man he had never met. He begged God to remove the sin from him and give him a new, clean heart. That’s exactly how we should respond when faced with our own hypocrisy.
We’re probably never going to fix the political world and all of their hypocrisy, but we can start making a difference in life by fighting hypocrisy any time we find it in our own hearts. If you’re married, rather than looking for the things your spouse does to frustrate you, focus on ways you might be doing the same thing. Church leaders, let’s make sure we’re not picking the sins out of the world’s eye while leaving those closest to home in our churches go unaddressed. No matter who you are, pay close attention to the things that others do that frustrate and anger you and look for how you may be doing the same. The truly godly heart is one that is always looking to eradicate and destroy its own sins. Jesus died so that hypocrisy and pride could be forgiven and a fresh start could be taken. And who knows, maybe by focusing inwardly, we can set the example and make the world a bit brighter (Matthew 5:16).
By Jack Wilkie
Image credit: “JULIE TAYMOR & STEPHEN COLBERT IN CONVERSATION-Kimberly Cecchini-0010” by Montclair Film Festival is licensed under CC BY 2.0